“But I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty. Girls wanted butts now. Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them. And then, what felt like moments later, boom—Beyoncé brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired. And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyoncé and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall a**, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, and the arms of Michelle Obama.” – Tiny Fey
Women’s bodies have been under scrutiny for centuries. There are plenty of videos that we can find on Youtube that show what was thought to be “beautiful” at a specific point in time and place. This Buzzfeed video shows what the ideal woman body would look like in different parts of the world during different time eras. There are many differences between these descriptions from waist sizes, to skin tones, to even feet sizes.
Not too long ago, I noticed that we were all about being skinny – growing up, I remember how girls my age would be battling with themselves to try and be very, very skinny. This could lead to unhealthy and even deadly habits and diseases such as anorexia and bulimia. Skip forward ten years later, we’re all about the curvy body types – thick, toned thighs, a nice, big butt, and a full chest.
Let me start by explicitly stating that I have no issues or preferences when it comes to my body being skinny, curvy, larger, petite, flat, full, etc. I am me. I have been all of these shapes at different points in my life and I haven’t even hit 25 yet. When I was a little girl, I was really skinny. It couldn’t be helped. My parents just thought I wasn’t eating, but oh man was I eating. I LOVED food, and still do (look at these delicious donuts I got from Beechwood Doughnuts!!!). When I was younger I would sometimes eat until I got sick because everything just tasted so darn good, and being a kid, I didn’t exactly know my limits hahaha. As I started to grow up, my body started to develop and I lost my very thin and straight-like figure. I now have rather large hips as compared to some of my friends, and thick thighs. I am totally okay happy with that. Having moved out to pursue a degree in Business away from my home, every time I went back, my weight fluctuations were always commented on. Guaranteed. Somebody would say something. Not that anybody was trying to be hostile, but it was just a “fact of life” as I was told. Comments are made, and they just happen. As you can probably imagine, being the very blunt person that I am, I refused to accept that my family members were going to fall into the category of thinking it was okay to comment on my weight regardless of how it may have made me feel. I have never been too insecure about my shape and weight, but I was not totally confident in myself either – sure, I’ll admit that now, but that wasn’t the case 2 years ago. I would try and whip my body back into shape as best as I could before visiting home. I got into a really irregular (and possibly unhealthy routine) trying to overwork my body a few weeks before going home and then binge eating once I got there. Not okay. I had a talk with my family and I told them that I would really appreciate it if they would stop commenting on my figure – good or bad. If I was in really good shape, I didn’t want to hear about it either. I had finally become comfortable enough in my own skin to just be happy knowing that I am healthy. I am never going to have a small bum or small thighs (or the “thigh gap”) – it runs in my family and I’ve come to love it. I’ve also come to realize that I will never have washboard abs — even when I was on a strict, healthy diet and worked out about 5-6 times a week. It just wasn’t going to happen and that’s perfectly okay with me.
I am so tired of people saying which body is perfect for whatever reason. Why not just focus on being healthy? For some, it is VERY difficult to lose weight/fat, and for others, there are “problem” areas where it is far more difficult to lose the fat as compared to other parts of the body. Now that the fitness trend has kicked in (seriously, it’s all over Instagram), there’s scrutiny about how a woman who is TOO muscular looks way too “manly”. Let’s talk The Bachelor (yes, it’s my guilty pleasure!). If anybody watched the season with Chris Soules, they would know Jillian – the girl that works out well, whenever she can. Other girls in the house were bashing her for how much she worked out and how she was more of a dude than Chris. Like, really? The girl takes pride in her body and working out, and she’s happy being fit. That’s awesome! We should all aspire to be active and healthy! Instead of bashing on each other, we should be supporting each other. Granted, this is a television show after all, so who knows if it’s scripted or not… But it happens far too often in real life. We tend to shame women with body types that are not the same as ours. For some reason, instead of promoting all body types and health, we promote our own body type by saying stuff like “I love being voluptuous/curvy (or skinny), I wouldn’t want to look like a [insert some sort of rude name here]”. Why do we do this to ourselves?
On the other hand, I am sure we can agree that we have a lot on our plates too when it comes to school, work, cleaning the house, taking care of a family, volunteering, etc. It can be very difficult to make time for exercise, and even if we have time, we may be exhausted from our daily routines already. But there are small things we can do here and there to get active. My aunt moved into a new apartment over summer and instead of taking the elevator all the time, she would take the stairs. She’s definitely lost a lot of extra weight, but more importantly, she tells me that she feels much more energized and that she is a lot happier. Exercise helps boost endorphins, promotes a good night’s rest, and increases stamina (more energy for everyone, yay!). Bonus: exercising also helps with depression thanks to the feel good endorphins!
At the end of the day, just be healthy. Make small changes that are manageable and won’t make you change up your entire lifestyle. Drastic changes may work for a short period of time, but your body and mind might not be able to adapt to it in the long run. Make sure your blood pressure is where it has to be, that your blood sugar levels, fat content, and cholesterol are at the right levels. Try and eat healthier, but remember to enjoy your guilty pleasures too. Being healthy is very different from trying to be what others consider as “beautiful” (what is that anyway…). If you are healthy and have achieved your own health goals, then you will be happier. Don’t ever let anybody take that away from you and don’t ever let anybody tell you or make you feel that whatever shape you are is not “good enough”.
And here’s a beautiful quote from my one of my favourite movies, The Help: